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Juvenile Prosecution

As a general rule, the Palestinian law makes no distinction between children and adults regarding investigation and questioning by the prosecution.[1] In both cases, the applicable legislation is the Criminal Procedures Law of 2001. Reference to the function of the prosecution based on the Criminal Procedures Law was made explicit in the 2016 Juvenile Protection Law.[2] Prosecutors operate under the direction of the Attorney General to investigate and indict suspected offend- ers.[3] The Law obliges prosecutors to investigate the crime upon its commission.[4] Questioning follows and is carried out to get as much detailed crime-related data as possible.[5]

However, a notable development has been marked by President’s signature of the Juvenile Protection Law that created, for the first time in the history of Palestine, a juvenile specialized prosecution.[6] Article 18 of the Law stated: “(1) In accordance with this law, there shall be assigned a prosecution in charge of juvenile and child at risk of delinquency in charge of all matters relating to juveniles ... . (2) This prosecution shall investigate based the Criminal Procedures Law, as long as such procedures do not contradict this law. The prosecutor shall instruct the child protection officer to carry out necessary tasks and social research to find the truth and to discover child’s personality to advance the appropriate means to rehabilitate and protect him.” The specialization of child prosecution in the new law was preceded by an interest from the side of the

Attorney General Office to set up such specialized prosecution.[7] To pave the way for such specialization, there have been a number of training courses provided to prosecutors on juvenile justice issues.[8]

Specialized prosecution came in the context of creating specialized police and judiciary. Awaiting full specialization, one or more prosecutor has been already assigned to deal with juvenile justice matters.[9] Specialized prosecution should be institutionalized. This can be achieved by having detailed procedural basis for juvenile prosecution, assign trained prosecutors to work exclusively on juvenile cases, adopt ongoing training and capacity building programs on juvenile justice for prosecutors, develop simplified manual on the special need of children during the investigation and questioning stages, put in place a computerized case management system, and create coordination mechanisms between prosecutors and other actors in the justice chain: police, judges, probation officers, detention facilities, and prisons.[10]

The new Law added a few other tasks to the prosecution in relation to children cases. It instructed prosecutors to review the report of the child protection officer.[11] Prosecutors cannot interrogate a child in the absence of such an officer.[12] The Law also empowered prosecutors to offer mediation on child cases to end the cases if an agreement between the parties is reached, as discussed previously. Other than these exceptions, the treatment of children before prosecution is similar to adults.

In the first 24 h after referring the accused person to him or her, the prosecutor should undertake the questioning.[13] The prosecutor has the option to detain or release the child. It should be noted that, after the arrest by the police, the detained person should be transferred to prosecutor within 24 h.[14] This means that the accused person, including children, might spend 48 h between the police station and the prosecution before the legal determination whether to keep him in detention or release him.[15] All decisions to extend the pretrial detention after the 48-h periods, which might last up to 6 months, must be issued by the competent court.[16]

There is a lack of coordination between prosecutors and police on juvenile cases. Police often report that prosecutors transfer children to specific prisons instead of indicating that children should be transferred to social institution or to a “place similar to persons of his case.” Thus, police has no choice but to detain children. One chief prosecutor, on the other hand, reported that prosecutors never order the detention of children in prison.[9] As the Palestinian Attorney General pointed out, the detention and imprisonment of children will only end after setting up three modern juvenile care situations in the north, south, and central West Bank (besides Dar Al-Amal).[18]

  • [1] Information in this section is mainly drawn from interviews by the writer with prosecutors, policeofficers, and experts, including a meeting with Palestinian Attorney General.
  • [2] Article 20(1).
  • [3] Mahmoud Shahin, Report on the Institution of the Palestinian Public Prosecution (Ramallah1999).
  • [4] The investigation process is addressed in Articles 55-63 of the Criminal Procedures Law.
  • [5] Questioning is dealt with in Articles 94-105.
  • [6] Meeting with Palestinian Attorney General, Dr. Ahmad Barak, in Ramallah on 12 May 2016.
  • [7] Ahmad Barak, “Critical Study of Juvenile Justice in the Initial Investigation Phase according toJuvenile Rehabilitation Law No. 15 of 1954 in the Light of Contemporary Criminal Policy,” Justiceand Law Review, No. 11 (Ramallah, April 2009), pp. 11-23.
  • [8] Nader Said-Foqahha, A Study of Juvenile Justice in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (Ramallah2010), p. 30.
  • [9] Misheal, supra note 87.
  • [10] Cf. Gwynn Davis, Jacky Boucherat, & David Watson, “Pre-Court Decision-Making in JuvenileJustice,” 29 British Journal of Criminology 219 (1989).
  • [11] Article 17.
  • [12] Article 19.
  • [13] Criminal Procedures Law, Article 105.
  • [14] Ibid., Article 107.
  • [15] Ibid. , Article 108.
  • [16] Ibid., Article 120.
  • [17] Misheal, supra note 87.
  • [18] Meeting Attorney General, supra note 169.
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